Father Knows Best: Women Approached Their Careers Tenaciously Because Of Dad

“My father is definitely not the kind of guy who’d place his children in key roles within his organization if he didn’t think we could surpass the expectations he had for us. You see, in the Trump household, it was never just about meeting the expectations of others. It was about exceeding them. It was about surprising people. And being the best. Anything less was second-rate, which probably explains one of my biggest worries starting out — that I would merely be competent at my job in the Trump Organization. Good enough, and nothing more.”

Ivanka Trump wrote this in the introduction of her book The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life. Now though most of us don’t have as larger-than-life or extraordinary father figure as Ivanka has, you can’t help but think that Ivanka would have been just as easily influenced by her father if he pumped gas at a gas station.

Fathers are a very important part of young women’s lives and their impact can affect how a woman approaches her career in her adult life. At the Intelligence Squared Debate held earlier this week called “Are Men Finished?” philosophy professor and feminist scholar Christina Hoff Sommers said when parents take their children to a playground and the child goes on the jungle gym it is the mother that usually says “Be careful!” and the father says, “How high can you climb?” It is that combination of nurturing and encouragement that help a child become well-rounded, but from the women we talked to it was their fathers pushing the “how far can you climb?” attitude  that has helped them approach their careers with more tenacity.

According to a 2009 study from the University of Maryland, women are three times as likely to follow in their father’s career footsteps these days than they were a century ago: Only 6% of women born between 1909 and 1916 went into their father’s business, compared with roughly 20% of Gen X and Y. The American Psychological Association says that the changing economic role of women has greatly impacted the role of fathers in their children’s lives. Women now comprise over 50% of the workforce, leaving fewer families than ever before  in the traditional women as the primary caretakers households. Fathers are now spending more time with their children than ever, and experts say that a “father’s love” plays a much different role in childhood development. Most specifically, that it develops a child’s sense of place in the world.

Melinda Goodman, President of Copper Penny Marketing said:

“My Dad never handed out much praise, and he still doesn’t.   But he had expectations and your responsibility was to meet them.  He didn’t provide a lot of instruction for work or projects.  He felt that common sense and problem solving were critical tools and I shouldn’t need someone to tell me what to do.  So I became good at “figuring stuff out.”  He also didn’t accept can’t or no as answers for anything. Growing up on a ranch…and with my Dad, I definitely grew up in a man’s world.  (My Mom worked full time outside of the home running a small business…and I was at my Dad’s side all the time…no day care for me.)  I ended up pursuing a career in marketing and public relations in the agriculture business and continued to work in a predominately male dominated field.  The area is shifting to a more of a balance of men and women, but for my first 10 years of my career there were far less women.

I quickly moved through the ranks into management rolls and my pay scale accelerated.  I do credit this to the lessons my Dad instilled:  hard work, never take no for an answer, you can do anything a man can do, be yourself, never accept that what you achieved is good enough, be strong, go ahead and cry…but you better keep working, don’t take someone’s anger personally, etc.  The list goes on and on.  Even in my first management roll at the age of 25 I had the confidence to take on a board room full of 50-plus year old men and put some in their place, ask for a significant raise and force them to make difficult choices and change.  I gained respect quickly…in a room filled with men that didn’t know if a woman, let alone a young girl could handle the challenge.”

Not that women can’t learn a lot from their mothers that will help them in their careers but in many ways men are just born with the natural sense of confidence or have it ingrained in them from such a young age that women just don’t have or at least don’t have nearly as much. The Huffington Post recently published an article on the seven lessons we can women can take from men on how to improve in the workplace: negotiating better, having higher confidence levels, making yourself visible, not apologizing for everything, look at networking as work too and showing less emotion. Now every man doesn’t have these qualities but a lot of them do and so if a young girl can be exposed to that a younger age she may approach her career with an advantage.

Kathy Steck entered a male dominated field but didn’t really notice because she had been taught not to worry about being the only girl or woman in a situation.

“Because I grew up by my daddy’s side, I never really worried about being outnumbered. And outnumbered I was as the first female production manager in the history of the New York Daily News (and the only woman for a short while.) I was a rarity as a plant manager in other small manufacturing companies, and I was generally outnumbered wherever I worked. But I loved my work.

My father’s influence was also very much a part of how I managed. As a plant manager and production manager, and I always approached my employees according to how my father taught me. He said, “The guy working on the line knows that line better than anyone. He can tell you how to fix it.” So I always turned to my employees and asked them to tell me where the problems were that needed fixing. If I fixed their problems the line would run smoother and production would go up. And for the problems I wanted to fix, I always tried to get input from them to confirm that my ideas would work. They would still be part of the problem solving. So dad was always very much a part of my management style.”

Paige Bailey, a business analyst for eImagine Technology Group said:

Clearly the Technology Industry as a whole is extremely male-dominated and that holds true at eImagine – a company of just under 50 employees and few are women. I would say I’ve learned a large amount about the career-world from my father and he really shaped my personality and approach to my career. He taught me to never complain of a problem that I didn’t have an answer or solution to, to never let anyone tell me that I can’t do something, and most importantly to never give up.


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